Claim to fame: A six-time All Star and 20-year cornerstone for the Detroit Tigers, Trammell might have been one of, if not the best, shortstops of his generation (without diving through rosters and WAR rankings from Trammell’s years in the majors, 1977 to 1996, Cal Ripken Jr. probably ranks in front.) Trammell retired with a .285 lifetime batting average and 2,365 hits, which would place him ahead of a number of shortstops already in Cooperstown. Bill James ranked him as the ninth-best shortstop of all-time in 2001. Whether this makes Trammell something more than a very good player and, in fact, Hall-worthy is another story.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Trammell made his 10th appearance on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for Cooperstown, receiving his highest vote total yet, 24.3 percent. He’s doing better with the voters than double play partner Lou Whitaker, who was famously lasted just one year on the ballot, though Trammell looks like one of those players who will go the full 15 years on the ballot with no hope of getting the 75 percent of the vote needed for enshrinement but with a large enough base of support to remain on the ballot. These sorts of players have done well with the Veterans Committee.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Trammell seems like the kind of candidate the Veterans Committee will love: conservative without any hint of scandal, a baseball person who’s stuck around the game to coach since retiring, and a solid and consistent, if not legendary player. He’s his generation’s Nellie Fox or Pee Wee Reese or Red Schoendienst. I’m guessing the Vets will get Trammell into Cooperstown in the next decade or two, whether it’s deserved or not.
I don’t know if I’d have any problem with Trammell’s enshrinement, but it’s not a cause I’m rushing to embrace either. There doesn’t seem any great injustice in overlooking a player with a lifetime OPS+ of 110 or career WAR of 66.9 or a .285 batting average without spectacular defense. I’d sooner give a plaque to Deadball Era shortstop Bill Dahlen, who has a roughly identical OPS+ of 109, better WAR at 75.9, and more hits at 2,461. Dahlen played in the shadow of Honus Wagner most of his long career and seems forgotten today by all but baseball researchers and historians and people who frequent Baseball-Reference.com like myself.
Dahlen’s exclusion comes closer to injustice, but even with him, I’m not vehemently in this camp. As I’ve said before, I’ve become more welcoming to having more people in the Hall of Fame since I started writing this column almost a year ago, seeing how many solid players I’ve found that there are outside of Cooperstown, but there doesn’t seem anything otherworldly about the talents of Dahlen or Trammell or so many others. They’re very good sure, but if Cooperstown is purely for the greats, it doesn’t seem like they belong. Granted, if the Hall of Fame took this tact retroactively, I’m sure a lot of players would need to be removed from the museum.
As I’ve said before with others, I doubt the museum would be any worse for Trammell’s presence, and I’m sure many fans would be thrilled to see his plaque, but is that enough?
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Albert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark